Chico, CA -- Butte County Superior Court issued a strongly worded ruling Thursday, affirming the right of medical marijuana patients to cultivate collectively. In no uncertain terms, Superior Court Judge Barbara Roberts ruled that seriously ill patients cultivating collectively "should not be required to risk criminal penalties and the stress and expense of a criminal trial in order to assert their rights. " Judge Roberts' ruling also rejected Butte County's policy of requiring all members to physically participate in the cultivation, thereby allowing collective members to "contribute financially."
In May 2006, Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the nation's largest medical marijuana advocacy organization, filed a group lawsuit on behalf of a 7-person private patient collective, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as damages and attorneys fees. After a September 2005 warrantless search of his home in Paradise, California, by the Butte County Sheriff's Department, cultivator David Williams was forced to uproot and destroy more than two dozen plants or face arrest and prosecution. "We were told that it was not lawful to grow collectively for multiple patients," said 54-year old patient and collective member David Williams of the 2005 incident.
Thursday's Superior Court decision overruled a demurrer, filed by the County of Butte in an effort to dismiss the case. Judge Roberts found that "the destruction of plaintiffs' property was improper" if, in fact, the collective was valid under state law. "The next step," according to ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford, "is to show that Williams was running a valid collective. At that point, the court is expected to make a final determination consistent with yesterday's ruling, which strongly vindicates the right of medical marijuana patients to associate together to grow the medicine they need."
ASA was compelled to file the Williams lawsuit after receiving repeated reports of unlawful behavior by Butte County law enforcement, as well as by other police agencies throughout the state. After uncovering Butte County's de facto ban on medical marijuana patient collectives, ASA decided to pursue the case to show that collectives and cooperatives are protected under state law. "The ruling not only affirms ASA's position that civil court is an 'appropriate forum to address the issues of medical patients' rights,'" said Elford. "It also sends a clear message to local law enforcement in California that they must respect the rights of patients to cultivate collectively."
For more information:
Butte County Superior Court ruling from September 6, 2007
ASA's lawsuit challenging Butte County's ban on collective cultivation